|Bradford City 1|
|Blackburn Rovers 2|
|Dack 31, Markanday 39|
By Tim Penfold
Bradford City fought hard and fought to the end but fell to a narrow defeat against Blackburn Rovers this evening. It was an entertaining cup-tie, eventually decided by the superior quality in the visitors’ attack.
The hosts lined up in a 4-4-2, ceding their usual control of the midfield in order to have both Andy Cook and Kian Harratt up against an inexperienced visiting defence. Rovers, meanwhile, fielded two tricky wingers in Dilan Markanday and Tyrhys Dolan, with Bradley Dack pulling the strings in between the pair of them, and it was these three that dominated the opening exchanges.
The visitors attacked with a speed and trickery that City are unlikely to see again this season. Their movement was sharp, their passing was crisp and it caused all sorts of problems for the Bantams’ defence. Dack was a particular threat from set pieces, lurking just outside the box for a succession of short corners to be worked to him, and from one of those Harry Lewis made the first of several outstanding saves.
The home side did manage to get a foothold in the game after the first ten minutes or so. Rovers’ defence contained one debutant and one teenage Premier League loanee more commonly fielded in midfield, and they both struggled with City’s classic front two, who briefly invited comparisons with a more famous one from a decade ago.
Kian Harratt doesn’t quite have Nahki Wells’ sheer speed, but his work rate made him a constant thorn in the visitors’ side. Andy Cook, meanwhile, is not as aerially dominant as James Hanson was, but is a far better goalscorer, and showed it on eighteen minutes, converting Scott Banks’ fine low cross.
Having scored, City became the better side. Harratt came close to doubling the lead, glancing Banks’ cross on to the post, and a second goal at this point could’ve made all the difference. The atmosphere went up a notch, helped by some challenges from Blackburn that could generously be described as heavy, and more accurately described as “blatant fouls missed by an incompetent referee”.
Their superior quality told, however, as Rovers worked space behind Matty Platt and Brad Halliday. Dolan streaked down the left behind them, and drew Romoney Critchlow across before squaring for Dack to finish. City almost struck back instantly, with Harry Chapman drilling a shot into the side netting, but shortly before half time Rovers struck again. It was another quick counter, with Critchlow beaten to the ball leaving two attackers up against Liam Ridehalgh. Jack Vale drew the defender out before slipping it to Markanday, who finished well.
Neither centre back covered themselves in glory this evening. Critchlow looked mostly composed but prone to errors at inopportune moments, while Platt looked a little slow against higher-league opposition and also uncomfortable in possession.
The second half proceeded in much the same vein as the first. Both sides created chances, with Blackburn’s generally being a bit better. The referee continued to be incompetent, at one point signalling the wrong way for a free kick and confusing the entire stadium, and at another point allowing Blackburn to play advantage after he’d blown his whistle. It was, however, a good and open cup tie.
The substitutions came after the hour mark, with Vadaine Oliver and Lee Angol summoned from the City bench. The home side seemed to lose some structure as a result though, and were simultaneously unable to build play as effectively and unwilling to go long to Oliver until the last few minutes of the game.
There were chances – one dangerous free kick bravely cleared by the visiting keeper, and one vital block deep into stoppage time. But Blackburn just about had enough to keep City out, and in the end deserved their win.
There was lots to be pleased about tonight – Scott Banks looked bright, Andy Cook grabbed another goal and Harry Lewis was outstanding in net. More pleasingly, the team did not let their heads drop, and kept going until the very end.
It’s no disgrace to lose to opponents with this much ability, and the performance bodes well for the league games to come.
Categories: Match Reviews